Facts about voter ID and the voter information card
For an election to have integrity, everyone who is eligible to vote should be able to vote for a candidate in their electoral district, and people who are not qualified to vote should not be able to vote.
Electors must prove who they are and where they live
Since 2007, electors have to prove their identity (who they are) and their current address (where they live) before they can vote in federal elections.
Most electors can prove their identity and address easily, with a single piece of ID – usually a driverís licence. But some eligible electors have difficulty getting the ID cards that are accepted in a federal election, especially cards showing their current address.
Some Canadians do not have enough ID
According to figures provided by various government agencies, 86% of Canadians carry a driver's license. footnote 1 In some provinces and territories, an increasing number of Canadians who don't drive possess a government-issued ID card with their photo, name and address.
According to a survey conducted after the 2015 general election, 93% of electors who voted recalled showing a government-issued photo ID with their name and address in order to vote. footnote 2
Proving address can be difficult for some groups of electors, such as seniors living in long term care, students away at school, rural electors who have a post office box, and First Nations electors living on reserve.
About voter information cards
About three weeks before election day, Elections Canada mails personalized voter information cards to electors. The card tells them that they are registered to vote. It also tells them when and where to vote, the different ways they can vote, and how to get more information.
Under the current Canada Elections Act, the voter information card is not a piece of ID.
The card is sent to electors registered in the National Register of Electors, at the address in the Register. The Register is a database of Canadians who are qualified to vote in federal elections and referendums.
We update the Register using a range of sources, including the Canada Revenue Agency, driversí licence and vital statistics agencies from Canadian provinces and territories. In addition, election administrators go door-to-door in neighbourhoods with high mobility. We also receive updates from electors themselves either online, in person, or by a mail-in form.
After we mail the voter information cards, we launch advertising and information campaigns telling electors to look out for their card, and asking them to contact us if they donít get a card or if their card needs updating.
As of November 2017, 93.2% of all eligible electors were included in the Register, and 92.9% of the electors in the Register were listed at their current address.
- 93.2% of all eligible electors are listed in the National Register
- 92.9% of registered electors are listed at their current address
- Every year, 11% of Canadians 18 and older move
The voter information card in the 2015 general election
Three weeks before election day, Elections Canada mailed 25,826,230 voter information cards to electors.
Approximately 2 million of these cards went to electorsí previous addresses. After the cards were mailed, Elections Canada updated addresses; added new registered electors; and deleted electors who were deceased, not qualified to vote, or had moved, based on information received from electors with incorrect cards, or who did not receive a card.
With these updates, Elections Canada mailed 858,059 revised voter information cards before election day.
Voter ID in the 2015 general election
At the 2015 general election, electors had several options to prove their identity and address.
- 93% of electors showed a driver's licence or another single piece of ID showing their name, address and photo
- Less than 1% showed two documents with their name and had a neighbour with ID attest to their addressfootnote 4
- 172,000 electors could not exercise their right to vote because they did not have accepted proof of identity and/or address
- Of these electors, about 50,000 went to their polling place but were turned away for lack of IDfootnote 5
Pilot projects with the voter information card
In by-elections in November 2010 and in the 2011 general election, Elections Canada ran a pilot project at certain polling places – seniorsí residences, long-term care facilities, First Nations reserves, and on-campus student residences.
At these targeted polling places, electors could prove their address by showing their personalized voter information card bearing their name and address, if they also showed another accepted ID card to prove their identity. Many electors used this option.
Based on these pilot projects, accepting the voter information card as a proof of address can help groups who have difficulty showing proof of address.
At no time have electors been allowed to vote by showing a voter information card as their only piece of ID. They always had to present a second piece of ID along with it.
And, at no time were electors allowed to vote using a voter information card with someone elseís name. They always had to show a voter information card with their own name and their current address, plus another piece of ID showing their name.
For more information:
- Current voter identification requirements for voting in person
- FAQs on voter ID
- Policy on voter identification
- Research Focus: Voter identification requirements in the United States
- Research Fact Sheet: Identification Requirements for In-Person Registration and Voting Options in Canada
Return to source of Footnote 1 Elections Canada calculations based on driverís licence distribution (Transport Canada, Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics, 2015) and population (Statistics Canada, Demography Division, July 2015)
Return to source of Footnote 3 Statistics Canada, Demography Division. Special tabulations based on annual migration estimates from Canada Revenue Agency T1 family file.